I got married in July and I have not yet had sex with my husband. We are both virgins and grew up in the church where our sex education has made us feel that it is wrong to have sex. Each time we try we become fearful and feel as if we are about to give in to deadly, sinful, worldly pleasures. My natural shyness and the dictates of the church have contributed to this, and my husband seems to have the same inhibitions. Sometimes I develop courage and may rub against him while he's sleeping, but he never responds. I really want to enjoy my husband's body and the sex act. Please help.
I am sure some people reading your letter are saying to themselves, how can a couple be married for five months and have not yet consummated their marriage? But there are couples like you who have similar sexual issues.
There are well known socialising agents that inform our sex education and the church is one such. There are some pastors and influential church leaders who knowingly or unknowingly promote an anti-sex message associating sex with sin, and so some young couples who have been indoctrinated like you develop fear and even an aversion towards sex.
You and your husband may have been brought up in homes where the only sex education you got from your parents was to avoid sex because it could lead to pregnancy or to a sexually transmitted infection. You therefore equate sex to a plague that should be avoided.
These negative thoughts of sex followed you both into marriage — a period when sexual relations are condoned and you are expected to indulge. However, you are both tormented by a psychological struggle.
I don't know if you both had premarital counselling, but a proper premarital counselling programme would have included a section on sexuality where an open conversation on the topic would have been facilitated by the counsellor. This is where your fears and apprehensions would have been discussed in a non-intimidating environment. Being a shy girl, having this sensitive conversation with your pastor might be a bit uncomfortable for you, so a neutral person (counsellor) would be recommended.
So now that the horse has bolted through the gate, you and your husband must do damage control. There is now need for sexual retraining, which means changing the negative thoughts and ideas about sex and beginning to express yourselves sexually within the confines of your marital relationship.
As a young Christian couple, you must know and believe that the sex act was designed and ordained by God and is to be enjoyed by married couples as an expression of their love and commitment to each other.
You both should sit down and read together Songs of Solomon chapters 5:10-16; 7:1-11 and Proverbs chapter 5:18-19 in the NIV Bible, just to appreciate the legitimacy of the act.
One Christian sex therapist puts it this way, “Our bodies are each other's to enjoy in marriage. If we hold back for religious reasons we fool ourselves, because there is no biblical basis to do so. We are not consistent with an understanding of what the Bible has to say if we take an anti-sexual or anti-pleasure view of sex in marriage.” (Penner & Penner, 2005).
In the sexual retraining process there would be exercises that involve touching and communication which will help in reducing the fear and apprehension while improving the intimacy and physical connection.
I would recommend to you both a book entitled Restoring the Pleasure by Clifford and Joyce Penner that is currently available on Amazon. The topic on sexual retraining would be most helpful to both of you.
In the meanwhile, don't stress yourselves about engaging in penetrative sex, as this will only heighten the performance anxiety and cause sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and vaginismus (contracting of the muscles at the entrance of the vagina). Spend more time on non-penetrative sex play like slow dancing, caressing, kissing, massaging and cuddling, just to build and maintain the desire and arousal.
The key right now is for both of you to remove the negative thoughts and to trust each other to release the positive desire to express affection and receive sexual pleasure. When you have adjusted your thinking, your bodies will respond accordingly.
All the best.
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org; check out his work overseas on www.seekingshalom.org, e-mail email@example.com.